The Problem with Nuclear Power Plants and What To Do About It21 May

Renewing nuclear plant licenses for aging electric power generators is mired in a sink hole of politics and regulators, who are more concerned with the economical woes of that industry rather than safety. Here is a summary of the risks and a path forward to mitigate them:

1. Aging nuclear plants are risk prone and could lead to catastrophic consequences.

2. Ninety percent of the uranium used in nuclear power plants is imported with 15 percent from Kazakhstan and 23 percent from Russia. These sources are not necessarily reliable.

3. There are 65,000 tons of spent uranium rods stored at more than 30 locations. Nearly 2000 tons of spent fuel are added annually. It could take 15-20 years to identify a permanent waste storage site. Can we afford to wait that long?

4. Decommissioning a nuclear power plant will cost at least $600M and require several years. The cost of a new reactor ranges from $5B to $7B based on a Westinghouse AP 1000 model.

5. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is incapable of making unbiased decisions regarding license renewals. Cozy relations continue between politicians and regulators in spite of Fukushima.

6. License extensions are granted to save the nuclear power industry money, coupled with the hope that nothing bad happens during the 20-year license renewal period.

7. Nuclear plants could be replaced with natural gas-fired electric power generators. The United States has a plentiful (allegedly) supply of natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation, among others, and can be produced with horizontal drilling and hydro fracturing (“fracking”). However, it remains to be seen whether fracking can be accomplished without environmental harm. Some have questioned the extent of shale gas reserves, which might be overstated by at least a factor of 2.

Note: There are 11 government agencies that support the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Solicitations from these agencies are published several times during the year and contain dozens of problem topics. For example, many topics from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have a keen interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, some of which may overlap the issues raised in this post. Small businesses, sometimes teamed with universities, may submit proposals in response to these topics and possibly receive awards for technology/process development.

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5 Responses to “The Problem with Nuclear Power Plants and What To Do About It”

  1. Ro Pinto Reply

    Problem remains, burning any kind fossil fuel increases the carbon/CO2 burden and greenhouse effect. We would do better to develop solutions that use the energy given to us by nature, day to day, on an ongoing basis (hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, tides, volcanic, etc.)

  2. Ro Pinto Reply

    Problem remains, burning any kind fossil fuel increases the carbon/CO2 burden and greenhouse effect. We would do better to develop solutions that use the energy given to us by nature, day to day, on an ongoing basis (hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, tides, volcanic, etc.) But I’m with you on more stringent control over nuclear power generation in the meanwhile.

  3. Linda Maberry Reply

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About Dr. Everson

Prior to forming this SBIR consultant practice, Dr. Jeffrey Everson was director of business development for QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group (previously Foster-Miller, Inc.).

Dr. Everson has won and been the principal investigator for several SBIR programs, including a Phase I program for NASA, a Phase I project for the U.S. Air Force, and Phase I and II contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. For the Phase II program, he received a Tibbetts Award for exemplifying the best in SBIR achievement.

Previously Dr. Everson held senior scientist positions at Battelle Memorial Institute, The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC), Honeywell Electro Optics Systems Division, and Itek Optical Systems Division.

He holds a PhD in physics from Boston College and a MS/BS in physics from Northeastern University.

Contact

For more information about how JHEverson Consulting can help your company with its SBIR and STTR proposals, please contact Jeff Everson.

JHEverson Consulting is based in the Boston area but consults for clients throughout North America. It also is supported by affiliated consultants.